San Miguel de Allende is an absolutely beautiful colonial town about four hours north of Mexico City. I felt like I was in an Instagrammers dreamland with colorful buildings, blue skies, palm trees and cactuses everywhere. I constantly found myself stopping at bright yellow facades, cobbled streets, rows of potted plants along colorful rooftops, and flowers flowing down the front of different houses.
San Miguel de Allende has become something of an expat retirement town in recent years, but I was pleasantly surprised by how little that has affected the feel of the place. It’s a sleepy town with tons of art, shopping, and eating to do.
Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
There are so many fun things to do in San Miguel de Allende. The city is packed with stunning architecture, great viewpoints, peaceful parks, and lovely museums.
1. Parroquia De San
This bright pink cathedral was apparently modeled after a Belgian church that the architect saw on a postcard. It’s really unique and I loved the outside. Beside the church is the main square called El Jardín. It’s a nice place to just sit on a bench and people watch. The square is surrounded by restaurants and street vendors.
2. Templo de San Francisco
This is a really beautiful church with a lovely square to relax in. It’s much quieter than El Jardín, but there are still a few street stalls to grab a snack. I much preferred the inside of this church to the cathedral. It’s much more detailed and colorful.
3. Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez El Nigromante
Simply referred to as the Bellas Artes, this is the community center and art school in the center of town. The building used to be an old convent and still has a lovely quiet feel to it. It’s completely open to the public and the gardens inside are a really nice place to relax.
While we were there musicians were practicing, singers were serenading, artists were painting. It had such a creative buzz about it I wanted to spend the afternoon just soaking it all in!
4. Jardín Botánico El Charco del Ingenio
AKA the Botanic Gardens, is a beautiful 170-acre park just east of the town center. I read somewhere that you could walk, but after checking it out on the map, we decided to grab a taxi. Don’t walk. The road up to the park is SO STEEP. Seriously steep. A taxi from the center only costs 50 pesos (about $2.50). The entry fee when we visited was 40 pesos each (about $2).
There’s a loop track that goes past a seriously stunning canyon, around a reservoir, and past tons of different species of cactus. It’s not what I imagine when I think of botanical gardens. There aren’t lush, green gardens full of colorful flowers. Instead it’s grey dirt and brown craggy rocks and green cactus, but it’s unique and interesting, beautiful in a totally unconventional way.
5. Parque Benito Juarez
This is a really lovely park at the southern end of town. There are walking paths and juice stands, a basketball court and plenty of benches in the shade. I really enjoyed simply wandering around the park, relaxing, and people watching.
The Best Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende
There are so many restaurants and bars in and around the center. Whether you’re traveling to San Miguel de Allende with kids, with picky parents, or as a foodie couple, you’ll find something for everyone. For such a small city, I found that there were SO many fantastic options around. I actually found that my favorite places were slightly out of town along Zacateros and Ancha de San Antonio.
1. La Mesa Grande
This is an amazing little brunch spot with freshly baked bread, fruit platters, homemade granola, and great Mexican breakfast options. It’s pretty well priced compared some of the more expensive restaurants around and it was nice to find a healthier option in town. If you just want a coffee, this is a great place for that as well. You can have it in or take away.
2. Mercado Del Carmen
This little market really reminded me of Mercado Roma. It’s like a fancy street food collective with pizza places, taco stands, bars, and juice stalls all under one roof with plenty of distressed wooden benches to pull up a stool at.
3. Berlin Bar and Bistro
Great bar with some really good food as well. The atmosphere is one of the best parts – expats, locals and Mexican visitors mingle and the staff spoke English as well when we struggled to ask about certain things in Spanish. If you want to eat there for dinner definitely make a reservation! Otherwise, arrive early and grab a spot at the bar.
4. Street Food
Look for the food stalls all over El Jardín, the central square in front of the cathedral. There are different stalls there throughout the day selling tacos, quesadillas, tamales, hamburgers, and corn. Whatever the time of day you’ll find a snack in this area.
5. La Azotea
This is the perfect rooftop bar for spending the evening and watching the sunset. I adored the view of the cathedral and the surrounding area from their rooftop and I also loved their cocktails. They have a full food menu which is packed with modern Mexican food like seafood tostadas and the most delicious shrimp tacos all done in an elevated way.
6. Chocolate y Churros San Agustin
For a sweet treat pick-me-up in the afternoon, don’t miss out on the hot chocolate and churros here at San Agustin. It’s a nice old-style cafe with a view out over the nearby church of the same name.
7. Ki’Bok Cafe
Coffee lovers can’t skip a morning cup from Ki’Bok. The interior is painfully hipster and the coffee is delicious. I came here to work for a little while and just enjoy the quiet atmosphere that comes from being tucked down a side street away from the main square. They have a few food items in the mornings like freshly baked pastries, egg sandwiches, and seriously delicious “aguacate relleno” which is an avocado cut open and topped with fried eggs and manchego cheese and then melted under a grill before serving.
Shopping in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a shopaholics dream. Every shop is full of local art, unique pieces from Mexican and expat designers, and plenty of color.
1. Mercado Ignacio Ramírez
This is the local’s market where you’ll find fresh produce, handicrafts, tacos, and all matter of tat. It’s a nice place to do some people watching and shopping. Great if you’re going to self-cater.
2. Fabrica La Aurora
This old fabric factory is worth the visit alone, but now a sort of fancy artist market, it’s a nice place to pick up some local souvenirs. The factory has been completely updated and there are several restaurants and cafes within it. Between the shopping and the caffeine fix, I easily spent an entire afternoon here.
I sought this place out because I love the work their doing. All of the clothing is made by local seamstresses to help give local women financial independence. The clothing is beautiful and colorful. They use a lot of traditional Mexican patterns without it being the cheesy sort of stuff you find at the tourist markets. The quality is excellent for the price.
4. Mercado de Artesanias
If you’re looking for a souvenir that isn’t going to break the bank, but is still locally made, be sure to check out the Mercado de Artesanias. It’s just on the edge of the centro, but still easily walkable from anywhere in the downtown.
Best Hotels in San Miguel de Allende
As always, we turned to AirBnB and it did not disappoint(click here to get $35 off your first stay!). We stayed right in the center in this beautiful apartment that we had all to ourselves. It had a rooftop balcony where we spent most mornings enjoying our coffee and cereal. It was a short walk to all the sights and the owners couldn’t have been nicer. If you’re looking for a relaxing place to stay in San Miguel I highly recommend staying here.
If you’d rather stay in a hotel, there are tons of wonderful options to choose from in the centro historico as well as just outside of the downtown area if you want a bit more luxury.
These are my top picks for hotels in San Miguel de Allende.
- Hotel Boutique Verbena: This stunning boutique hotel is an absolute steal. Rooms start at only $75 per night and for that you get plush beds, luxurious decor, a very central location, and an outdoor terrace to relax in the mornings or evenings (or whenever you like for that matter!). Book a stay at Boutique Verbena here.
- Hotel Casa San Miguel: This is a wonderful midrange hotel in San Miguel. The rooms start at about $100 per night and is located just on the edge of the downtown area. The rooms are full of natural light, clean and well-designed, and there is a beautiful courtyard where you can sit in the sunshine. Book a stay at Hotel Casa San Miguel here.
- Hotel Matilda: For something utterly luxurious with the price tag to match, check out Hotel Matilda in the downtown area of San Miguel de Allende. There is an outdoor pool with sun loungers to enjoy in the warmer weather. There is a spa where you can get massages throughout the day either individually or as a couple. The rooms themselves are spacious and well designed. Rooms start at $300 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Matilda here.
Weather in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is in the mountains at 1,900 meters (6,200ft). We visited in mid-September and the weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny and warm during the day, about 25 degrees Celsius (77F). At night it was slightly cooler and dropped to about 20C (68F).
Similar to Mexico City, San Miguel experiences a rainy season from the start of June until almost the end of September. It usually means it’s quite warm during the day and then around 5 or 6 o’clock the clouds come and it rains for a few hours. Pack accordingly.
It can drop to much chillier temperatures in the evenings during the winter months, but you’ll still enjoy really sunny crisp days with temperatures above 20C (68F) during the day.
Getting In and Out of San Miguel de Allende
Getting in and out of San Miguel de Allende is really easy. From Mexico City, buses leave the Northern bus station every 40 minutes for most of the day. The better, faster, and more expensive bus company is Primera Plus. The ticket is 402 pesos each way. The cheaper, slower option is Coordinatos which costs 300 pesos each way. We took both of these and there wasn’t really very much difference except that Coordinatos makes a few stops along the highway to drop people off.
From the bus station in San Miguel de Allende, you can take any bus that passes by into the center for five pesos or a taxi for 30 pesos.
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Sunday 12th of September 2021
Hi - Next time in town come along on a tour as my guest as it will change how you see San Miguel de Allende by explaining the indigenous and Spanish roots to modern traditions! Joseph
Tuesday 14th of September 2021
Thanks so much, Joseph!